Garden Tips - May / June 2017 - Deborah Carney

Natural Strategies for Beating Weeds

I have come to the conclusion that there is more than one reason that we New Englanders are referred to as “Yanks”.  Every spring we march out to our gardens to greet a new batch of weeds and we “yank” away!  I have also come to the conclusion that if I want to be an organic  gardener, I must try to outsmart my weeds in a way that will not hurt the grasses, veggies and animals that cohabitate with the weeds in my yard. So I offer here, these simple ideas as a means to accomplish this annual task.

Strategy No. 1 Start Early: In the early spring when the soil is soft and moist or after a spring rain when things are almost mud, get out there with your boots on and yank away. The weeds aren’t fully developed yet and the roots are shallow and easy to pull out. I’ve waited to weed certain areas of my yard until way late in the growing season, and found the “tug-of-war” is more than I care to endure.

Strategy No. 2 Use a hand tool or hoe to “hack” the daylights out of the sweet little things. I usually use this approach for weeds that are wide spread. My weed wacker, low set lawn mower blade or a hoe will assist with these bigger batches of weeds. If one persists with killing the top growth, the root system will eventually wither and go someplace else.

Strategy No. 3 Smother: by blocking the sunshine and other nutrients from getting to the weeds they will not last long. Cover the weed area with several layers of newspaper, cardboard or a tarp. Secure the corners so it won’t blow away, and wait about a month before uncovering.

Strategy No. 4 Scald: It is possible to kill weeds by dousing them with boiling water. A tea kettle works well for spot treating small areas. Get the water to a “rolling boil”, run out to your yard, and douse your weeds. Lunch is served! (Be careful not to splash your legs with hot water while performing this task.)

Strategy No. 5 In an old one gallon milk jug, mix one gallon of white vinegar, one cup of table salt, and one tablespoon of liquid dish soap and shake well. Vinegar and salt dry out plant cell membranes, causing it to die from dehydration. Soap helps the mixture adhere to the plant. Fill a spray bottle with the mixture, and spray at all the above ground weeds on a sunny day. Sunlight boosts the vinegar’s effectiveness. Repeat as needed. Be sure to protect valued plants by covering them with a cloth or empty carton. If this all out assault fails to wipe out your weed problem it is time to visit the garden center. Look for Citrus Oil. Organic herbicides, such as Avenger, has citrus oil as an active ingredient. This oil strips leaves of their protective waxy covering, drying them out. This works best on broadleaf weeds including dandelion, pigweed, and bindweed. But, what the heck try it on all your weeds. I did and it works.

This is the Final Ultimatum: Strategy No. 6 The Garden torch: Look for “The Mini Dragon” at your garden center. It is a liquid propane fueled flame tool. You can zap any pesky weed that may pop up between the cracks of your driveway, walk way, or patio. Be sure to follow the directions TO THE LETTER!!!! Must be 18 years of age or older. You may want to keep a hose handy while using this tool. In a pinch it will also light your BBQ grill.

Be careful with all of these natural and organic strategies to do away with weeds. In the end, try as we might, I have a funny feeling they will be back next year, just in a different place.

Deb (May/June 2017 Horticultural Newsletter)

1. Experience
2. Chace, Teri “How to Eradicate Invasive Plants”, 2013
3. Baker, Jerry “ Backyard Problem Solver,” 2002